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Lion through its teeth

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

My good friend and neighbor called me the other day to let me know a lion had attacked its prey right behind her house.

“It was screaming in terror and crying,” she said. She hadn’t slept a wink that night she was so badly shaken.

Her husband had fallen asleep on the couch and was startled awake by the noise. He got up to see what all the commotion was about and witnessed the whole thing. For a split second, he thought maybe it was their dog who was being attacked. He ran upstairs and, to his immense relief, found his wife and their dog asleep and safe.

The next morning, they investigated and found the trail of blood that lead down the hill, about 10 feet from our driveway. The located the deer carcass in the gully that boarders our property.

The email chain between all the neighbors that ensued seemed to be divided into two camps. On one side were those who were concerned that the cats are getting way too close for comfort. This was the second kill that’s happened literally in the middle of a neighbor’s driveway in the past few months. They worry that the animal is getting too comfortable around the human inhabitants who have taken up residence in its territory. They want to alert the authorities and let them know we’ve had lion activity in the area, very close to our homes. They hoped the lion could be safely relocated.

The other camp was opposed to alerting any authorities. They felt strongly that we live in the lion’s territory, not the other way around; that the animal has done nothing wrong and that if we are to call the authorities, the animal will most likely be euthanized.

Some of the emails took on a sarcastic, almost sardonic tone. “Lions need to eat, too,” one neighbor wrote. “Here, kitty, kitty,” said another, though I think mostly to lighten the mood.

Others were panicked, riddled with fear. “I’m not going to let my wife go for walks alone or sit in the jacuzzi at night anymore,” one wrote. A few expressed concerns for the safety of our dogs and small children in the neighborhood.

Another neighbor put it like this. “The lions have always been here. Just because we’ve seen one doesn’t mean anything has changed.”

Me, I’d rather pretend the lion isn’t there. True, it’s always been there, and just because someone saw it viciously murder Bambi two feet from their house doesn’t mean it’s going to come after us, right? I mean, there are plenty of big, defenseless, tasty deer around. The house just happened to be in the path of the lion’s hunt. It hadn’t “moved in” to our neighborhood as one person suggested, it was tracking an animal and that’s where the animal happened to be.

Many of my neighbors have lived here for decades, with lions roaming around in their backyards. And even if living alongside these super stealth predators is a little creepy, they kind of like it that way.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I’m not spooked by all this. Just the other day, I picked up Levi from school, and when we got home, it was dusk. Dusk is prime time for lions. A chunk of ice fell off my tire into the snow and I jumped, startled. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought the gray chunk was a mouse that had run beneath my car because it was definitely being pursued by a lion. I could see it in my mind’s eye, the cat leaping from the hillside and onto my back before I’d even had a chance to see it coming. That’s what they do, you know.

It’s true I’ve seen one of these animals before. One afternoon, a mountain lion traipsed across our driveway once right in front of us, maybe 10 feet away. He slinked along, totally unaffected by our presence. He had a gangster look about him. I could have sworn he gave me the “what’s up” head nod. That lion was not even remotely fazed by us. He let us know, with his posture and steady gate, who was in charge. We stood, frozen and stunned as he walked right past us and continued up the mountain. And maybe that’s the point.

Yes, of course it scares me to see a trail of blood with giant paw prints, a deep groove left in the snow where the lion dragged the large animal into the gully next to my house.

Yes, of course I’m scared to walk my dogs after the sun goes down. My dogs will be on leashes from now on and I won’t walk them at dusk or in the dark anymore. Yes, I carry a bright light and try to make noise and hope that two dogs (even if they are easy pray and would probably taste delicious) plus myself are too much of a hassle for a lion, what, when they have animals much bigger who would put up less of a fight. Yes, I have gone online and researched what to do if, god forbid, I was confronted by one of these predators. Yes, I worry that a lion could leap onto our property and attack Levi like the child the same age who was attacked by a lion who jumped over a fence in Woody Creek a few years ago. Yes, I know I’m supposed to make myself look bigger by raising my arms or opening my jacket. I’m supposed to talk to the lion in a firm voice. I’m supposed to back away slowly. And I’m supposed to fight back if attacked.

Yeah, right.

At the end of the day, my feeling is the lion was here first. We chose to live here, in this wild place for the very reason that it is still so wild.

The Princess misses the beach. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


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